Belfast Telegraph

Tears as girls fulfil big sister’s dying wish with hockey triumph

It was their big sister’s dying wish. When Charlene Barr passed away from cystic fibrosis late last year she made her three sisters promise they would win the Hockey Schools’ Cup in her memory.

Natalie, Bethany and Serena kept their word this week when the girls were part of the Lurgan College team that lifted the trophy.

They dedicated their win at Lisnagarvey, Hillsborough, to Charlene, but said it wasn’t the same playing a hockey match without their biggest fan’s support.

“Charlene would travel to matches even when she was really poorly,” said 15-year-old Serena.

“Just 10 days before she died she travelled up to Raphoe in the car to watch us. She said she wouldn’t miss a match, she was very much an important member of the team.”

Charlene died of cystic fibrosis last October 30, aged just 20, at her home in Dollingstown, Co |Armagh, surrounded by her |parents and five siblings.

Before she died Charlene |raised more than £120,000 for a charity scheme to build a school for under-privileged children in Uganda. Natalie (18), an upper sixth student at the college, said her big sister was an inspiration both on and off the hockey field.

“She was at the first schools’ tournament we played in Lisnagarvey last year and we won this match on the same pitch, so it means a lot,” she said.

Lurgan College beat Wallace High in the final of the Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools’ Cup on Wednesday after a tense penalty shoot-out. Team captain Natalie said Charlene’s illness meant that she couldn’t play, but that she loved being a “good luck mascot”.

“She was our number one supporter — our coach Miss Hinds made her an honorary member of Lurgan College,” she added.

“To us she was just a wonderful big sister and I know she’d have been delighted and so proud and happy for us on Wednesday.”

Charlene’s charity work started in 2009 after a visit to Hidden Treasures primary school in Maya, a remote Ugandan village. She set up Charlene’s Project as a community fundraising group aiming to build a bigger and better school.

Her proud sisters said they were planning a family visit to Africa to see the completed building work on a number of classrooms.

“Things are really looking bright for the school, and we’re going to continue the work Charlene started,” said Bethany (15).

“She wanted to make a difference, and even though she was too ill to go to school, she wanted to give others a chance.”

Natalie added: “Sadly Charlene never got to see work start at the school, but we showed her a picture of the builder and the site, and for her that was exciting.

“She was so proud and so pleased to see it all coming together just before she died.”

”We know she’s watching over everything that’s going on down here.”

Background

Charlene’s Project was set up in 2009 after founder Charlene Barr was inspired by a visit to Maya in Uganda. She set a fundraising target of £70,000. After this was raised in just five months, Charlene increased her target to £120,000 to build a well and to provide teachers. Despite Charlene’s death in October 2010, building on the Hidden Treasures primary school continues today. For information on how to donate, visit www.charlenesproject.org

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